Published on NewsOK Modified: July 31, 2014 at 5:01 pm •  Published: July 31, 2014
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The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 3,500 to 297,250. That's the lowest average since April 2006, more than a year before the Great Recession began at the end of 2007.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When employers keep their workers, it suggests potential income gains, active hiring and confidence that the economy is growing.

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Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 4.12 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. mortgage rates declined slightly this week, hovering near their lows for the year.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday that the nationwide average for a 30-year loan slipped to 4.12 percent from 4.13 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, declined to 3.23 percent from 3.26 percent last week.

Mortgage rates are below the levels of a year ago. They have fallen in recent weeks after climbing last summer when the Federal Reserve began talking about reducing the monthly bond purchases it was making to keep long-term borrowing rates low.

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Debit overdraft fees often exceed cost of purchase

WASHINGTON (AP) — The fees that banks charge debit-card users who overdraw their accounts usually cost more than the items being bought.

That's the result of a study that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released Thursday.

Large banks have generally charged a $34 penalty when people overdraw their debit-card accounts, even though most of the purchases involved were for less than $24. And the penalties are charged even though most accounts return to a positive balance within three days, the study found. Banks profit by collecting more than half their checking account income from these fees.

The study builds on a 2013 report that found that heavy overdrafters, on average, face $900 in additional costs each year.

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SeaWorld, Southwest Airlines ending partnership

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld Entertainment are ending their 25-year-old marketing partnership, officials with both companies said Thursday, as the airline has been urged by animal rights activists to terminate the relationship.

The partnership won't be renewed at the end of the year when the current contract expires. As part of the partnership, three Southwest airplanes had various SeaWorld animals painted on their bodies. Those planes will be painted over to Southwest's traditional look. SeaWorld also had Southwest signs in its parks, and Southwest offered vacation packages to SeaWorld, as it does to other tourist destinations. The vacation packages will continue.

SeaWorld officials said the decision was mutual.

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$100 million for firm without offices, 1 agent?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Companies overseeing millions of mortgage loans appear to be skirting new federal regulations and legal settlements intended to stop them profiteering at the expense of troubled homeowners.

They are selling or have sold nearly nonexistent insurance agencies — in some cases with no offices, no websites and only a single registered agent — in multi-million dollar deals, as new rules prohibit them from collecting commissions on insurance they force homeowners to buy.

The deals illustrate how regulators are still wrestling with messy banking practices more than six years after the housing market's collapse. They also mean that newly sold insurance agencies have an incentive to compel struggling homeowners to buy costly policies, to justify the high sales prices commanded when the insurance agencies were sold.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average plunged 317.06 points, or 1.9 percent, to 16,563.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 39.40 points, or 2 percent, to 1,930.67. The Nasdaq composite fell 93.13 points, or 2.1 percent, to 4,369.77.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.10 cents to close at $98.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest level since March 17. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 49 cents Thursday to close at $106.02 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.9 cents to close at $2.797 a gallon. Natural gas rose 5.5 cents to close at $3.841 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 0.7 cent to close at $2.890 a gallon.